Right environment and staff key to startup success

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The primary purpose of enterprise management is to select the best people and empower them to accomplish productive work toward the organisation’s objectives.

By MURORI KIUNGA

When I quit employment over 10 years ago to start my own business, one seasoned managing director of a local company told me one thing that to date has informed most of my business decision, especially on human resources.

Over a cup of coffee in his office, I told him I had made up my mind to join the club of business owners. He looked at me straight in the eyes and asked me to name key successful players in the industry. When I did he asked me why I thought they were successful. Of course I fumbled with answers such as they had been in the market for long, they had many products, they had some key products, had strong brands and so on.

He paused and told me that is not the point. He asked me to look at it from the businesses owner’s point of view because I was preparing to be a business owner.

When I hesitated to answer, he told me the difference that matters and that is responsible for varying business success is the human resource – the people factor.

He asserted that when we say one institution, for instance a school, is better than others we are not referring to buildings, books or owners. We are talking about the quality of services rendered by the people who work in that institution. The owners may not be directly in management but their role in putting in place the right people to deliver results cannot be gainsaid.

My mentor summed up the short lecture by telling me that the greatest single determiner of my success in business is the quality of people I hire and how I empower them to serve customers.

Therefore, the primary purpose of enterprise management is to select the best people and empower them to accomplish productive work toward the organisation’s objectives. Good managers ensure that everyone plays as a team and each is in the right position. Having the right people in the wrong position does not help.

When you organise people into divisions, units, groups and teams, and provide goals and incentives to motivate them, your work as a manager or business owner is almost done. You have created an environment that will nurture and attract the best in the industry.

When I was a small boy my father heard that there were grade cows that were producing up to three times the milk he was getting from his local breeds.

Conducive environment

He travelled to the highlands and bought some good Friesian cows and brought them to our usually hot and dry low lands. Unfortunately they all died. It was a painful experience as some died when calving. Being a resilient man, he went and bought more and they too died.

When he sought advice he was told that breed of cows do not thrive in a dry environment. He was advised how to select a breed that is suitable for the environment and cross breed it to produce a better breed. This took time but the fruits were wonderful. After few years he had a resilient breed that was better in the region and could produce more milk.

Some business owners have tried to poach performing employees from other companies hoping to get similar results only to be disappointed.

If the environment is not conducive, poaching employees can only disappoint at best. It is like ‘importing’ daiy cows from highlands to lowlands with different climatic conditions and expecting it to survive. Do not be cheated; it is this environment that makes businesses in the same industry unique and achieve different levels of success.

Teachers are trained in the same colleges and use the same books but schools perform differently. It is the environment that makes an establishment stand out from the rest even though they may be sharing the same locality.

Therefore the ability to identify, hire and retain good employees by creating the right working environment is the ultimate mark of a good manager or business owner.

Employees are the face of the business. It is not possible for an entrepreneur to be everything and be everywhere. Whether you are managing a startup or an established business, your strength will be only in limited areas. It is upon you to get trusted people to compliment you in the areas you are challenged so that you can shine in the areas you are good at.

Some managers have been blamed for bringing down profitable businesses when hired. This is a case where a pebble thrown into still water causes ripples in the entire pool. Bad leadership is bad when dealing with professionals who are used to a cool working environment.

As a leader there are three personal attributes that determine your ability to influence your employees to feel motivated.

First is personal integrity. This has to do with how you treat other people including your family, friends, business associates and government agencies. If for instance you ask them to help you manipulate figures to cheat your suppliers and law enforcement officers, you will never influence your employees positively.

Secondly, your financial discipline and perception. Meeting your financial obligations, planning well and being fair to your customers, suppliers and employees are indicators of financial integrity.

Thirdly, let your word be a bond. Keep all your commitments, especially to your employees.

If you promise them something such as better terms when conditions improve, ensure you keep to that. Don’t give them unachievable targets or unrealistic promises.

Avoid words or actions that may be construed to mean you value your customers or money more than employees. Create a win-win environment without insinuating that they need you more than you need them.

The writer is the Managing Director of Queenex Publishers Ltd. Email: murorikiunga@yahoo.com

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